THERE’S currently a bit of a rumpus going on over disruptive roadworks in the Sansome Walk area of Worcester, which is rather unfortunate, seeing as this used to be one of the most peaceful parts of the city, albeit a rather long time ago.

During the 18th century, green fields and pastures stretched from Sansome Style, outside the city wall near the site of the present Roman Catholic church, north to the hamlet of Barbourne with the eastern limits formed by the hills of Rainbow Hill and Merriman’s Hill.

In those days when radio, let alone television, was still a long way off, the principal leisure activity of the general populace was to go for a walk. This despite the fact that most walked to work anyway. But the “leisure walk” or promenade, was altogether different from the walk to work. It was a time and place to see and be seen.

Local scribe Laird wrote in 1818 that the principal walk or mall was in Sansome Fields, for which Worcester was ”indebted to the taste and liberality” of Sir Charles Trubshaw-Withers, who “laid open to the public a very agreeable line of footway, traversing a great portion of the pasture ground of his own premises on the eastern limits of the city”.

At the southern end of this was his mansion and the walks consisted of “a gravelly way, shaded on each side by elms, with footpaths leading to pleasant rambles in the adjoining fields”. The “gravelly way” was later called Sansome Fields Walk, now just Sansome Walk. It was the favourite promenade of the inhabitants, and especially the “belles of Worcester” in the 18th century. Something of the atmosphere of the period remains in the name “The Mall”, which can still be seen – although only after heavy rain – on the wall of a house in the Upper Tything, which was once part of the Alice Ottley School, now merged into the Royal Grammar School Worcester.

In the corner of nearby St Oswald’s graveyard, tucked away and almost forgotten, is an obelisk, a feature of the promenade, which marked where the paths divided, going either to the sophistication of Little London or the rural retreat of the Whey Tavern, a popular local pub until about 1840 when housing took over part of the area and it became a lace factory.

After the death of Trubshaw-Withers, a substantial section of the grounds were bought by Mr T Blaney of Evesham, who gifted Sansome Fields Walk to the city for use by the inhabitants. However, by 1840 Sansome Fields was in danger of being lost to the city until part of the Trubshaw-Withers estate was bought by the Worcester Public Pleasure Grounds Company and laid out by the eminent landscape gardener William Barrow.

The gardens opened on July 30, 1859 and extended to 25 acres, comprising terraces, flower beds and promenades, with a large central fountain, cricket ground, bowling green and archery butts. The corporation gave £1,000 towards the project and In return the public were allowed free access on one day of the week, but since the chosen day was Monday, this would have benefitted few. The main entrance was at the present Arboretum Road and had a lodge house and imposing iron gates in medieval design, made by the Hardy and Padmore foundry.

The grounds included boundary walls with massive ornamental palisading and a fine fountain similar to one at Witley Court. There was also a crystal pavilion at the end of the main drive, now Arboretum Road. Either side of the drive stood two Russian guns taken during the Crimean War. The gardens were regarded by experts of the day as among the finest pleasure grounds in the provinces.

Despite organising many attractions, including a three day horticultural show which drew 3,000 people, the Worcester Public Pleasure Grounds Company went bust. Worcester Corporation had the chance to buy the grounds off the new owner the Worcester Engine Company, but despite a substantial offer of support from Lord Dudley of Witley Court, who pledged £5,000 to the cause, the corporation decided not to proceed and the whole of the land was sold for building.

The crystal pavilion was dismantled and sold and the guns removed to the forecourt of the Shirehall, where they remained until taken for scrap at the outbreak of the Second World War. The main gates and some of the boundary railings were used at Worcester Royal Infirmary. The magnificent elms were sacrificed to widen the walk for carriages and the 18th century promenade became an ordinary street.

The loss to the city was great and the grounds were quickly obliterated by an undistinguished housing estate, hop warehouses and two churches. The most prominent reminder of the pleasure grounds is the lodge on the corner of Sansome Walk and Arboretum Road, which still stands today.